It's time to get back to class and hit the books—even during a pandemic. To help navigate this tricky time, we updated our school safety guide for kids with tips for success during the novel coronavirus.
School bells are ringing, and kids are heading back to school—whether that’s in-class, online, a hybrid, or homeschool. If yours are heading back into the classroom, you have the added concern of how to get them there safely amid a bunch of other adjustments.
At some point, your child will be a pedestrian. Make sure they know the basics, even if they’re riding the bus or getting a ride from a caretaker.
1. Stick together
Stay with a group of kids whenever possible.
2. Be visible
Walk on a sidewalk when one is available or walk facing traffic if there is no sidewalk. Wear bright-colored clothing to be more visible to cars.
3. Don’t do it alone
Children younger than 9 years old should always cross the street with an adult. Make sure your child understands the safest place to cross is at a crosswalk, street corner, or intersection. Make sure they know to never jaywalk across the street.
4. Choose the safe route
Choose the safest way possible. Consider risky spots like train tracks and busy intersections.
5. Know where to go
Identify safe houses along your child’s walking route. Point out homes of family friends where they can stop for help in case of trouble. Make sure these are people who know your child considers their home a safe place to go. And make sure to choose people who are home during the times your child will be walking by.
6. Discuss stranger danger
Make sure your child knows how to respond to strangers who they might encounter on their route.
7. Go over phone numbers they need to know
If your child carries a phone, make sure they know how to dial for emergency help. Numbers to include on speed dial include the local emergency dispatch, your phone number, relatives and friends numbers, and anyone else who could help your child in an emergency if the need arises.
8. Prepare for all seasons
Teach your child about special seasonal hazards. When dealing with snow-clearing vehicles, make sure your child knows to stand back until the snowplow or vehicle has gone by. Make sure your child understands that it is never safe to cross or play on stormwater drains.
9. Be sure they aren’t overwhelmed
Check your child’s backpack weight to make sure they don’t strain their backs or lose their balance.
10. Check in often
Ask your kids questions about their bus rides, walks, or rides to school (in addition to coursework or their friendships) so you can spot problems early.
Taking the bus
For years, the classic yellow school bus has been the safest way for kids to get to and from school.1 It’s one of the most regulated vehicles on the road, and the iconic transports are designed with your child’s safety in mind. But COVID-19 may make you second-guess sending your kids to school on a bus full of other students.
COVID-19 and buses
Viruses spread in poorly ventilated areas like school buses. The CDC and other experts recommend mask-wearing, adjusting bus schedules to increase social distancing, and regular disinfecting to decrease the risk of transmission.2,3 If your school district has made riding the bus an option for your child, you may ask a few questions before they board the bus this year:
Do they have a fever, cough, or sore throat?
Have they been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms?
Is another mode of transportation an option? Could you drive them? Could you do a socially distanced, mask-wearing “walking bus” instead?
Getting on and off the bus is typically the most dangerous part of riding one.1 Help them make safe bus-riding habits early:4
Stay five steps from the road when waiting for the bus and to stay away from traffic.
When the bus approaches, line up away from the road and wait until the bus comes to a complete stop to board.
Once on the bus, don’t distract the bus driver. Stay in your seat, keep your voice low, and don’t rough-house.
When you arrive at your stop, wait until the bus has come to a complete stop before getting up from their seat to exit.
Take extra care when exiting the bus—go slow and keep an eye on the steps and ground.
Stay in the sight of the bus driver and other drivers on the road before crossing the street, and keep an eye out for traffic.
Stay safe in school
Parents have more than ever to worry about when their kids are at school. Use our school safety tips to send them off while a little more confidence.
If you live close to the school, walking gives kids a chance to get their wiggles out and get a few minutes of exercise every day. It can also be a great way for kids to learn important landmarks to help them find their way home. But it’s not without its risks—in 18% of child-involved motor vehicle crashes, the child was walking.5
Kids can stay safe and enjoy their walks to and from school with a few safe practices:
Walk on the sidewalk and face traffic.
Cross the road only at designated crosswalks and intersections.
Stop and look both ways before crossing the street, or wait for the crossing guard to give the signal.
Check parked cars for drivers before crossing in front or behind them.
Make eye contact with drivers before stepping in the street—make sure they see you.
Wear bright-colored and easy-to-spot clothing.
Put down the cell phone and keep an open eye on their surroundings to watch out for potential hazards.
Consider walking with your child to school for the first week or two to demonstrate how to obey traffic rules and to also show them the safest route to school, pointing out potential hazards on the way.
Riding a bicycle to school is quick and a fun form of exercise. It can give older kids a sense of independence and ownership over their own schedule. Whether they’re just riding to school and back or stopping at swim practice or using public transportation, make sure they’ve got safety practices down before they ride off.
Celeste has dedicated her career to informing the public. Through her work as an editor and writer in newsrooms like KSL and Deseret News, as well as her work on SafeWise, she’s covered topics that help people stay safe and make well-informed decisions. Learn more